Virtual private networks (VPNs) have become commonplace in the remote working world. During pre-pandemic times, you might have used a VPN to keep your browsing history private or access streaming content that’s not available in your geographic location. These days, however, VPNs are a popular player in the small business cybersecurity landscape.
You can use a VPN to establish a secure, encrypted connection with the sites you visit. It will hide your IP address, device information, location, and online activity from prying eyes who would sell your data or use it to cause harm against you. On a business level, this is an easy way to keep your sensitive information safe, but there are a few steps you must take before you can start using a VPN to protect yourself.
Select the right VPN software
There are many VPN providers to choose from, so it’s important to know what to look for in the right solution.
Device type and quantity
First, consider how many and what types of devices you’ll need to cover for all of your employees. This might include laptops, smartphones, tablets, and any other device your team may use for work. Many VPN services allow multiple devices per user. The number of devices can add up quickly, though, so you might need to prioritize the ones that get the most use for business purposes.
You should also consider the location where you and your employees may need to connect to the VPN. Some providers offer servers across the globe, which is ideal for frequent international travelers. Other providers concentrate a large number of servers in a smaller geographical area to accommodate more users and maintain faster connection speeds. The closer in proximity a user is to a server, the better their experience is while connected.
Some countries also have laws that may impose on your privacy, even with a VPN in place. For example, countries in the Five Eyes alliance (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States) have an intelligence-sharing agreement with one another. If law enforcement gets access to your data stored on servers in one of these countries, it’s safe to assume that it will be shared with the others. As such, you should look for a VPN provider that maintains a strict no-logs policy so there’s no risk of your data being used without your knowledge.
Once you’ve determined what you need from a VPN, narrow your search down to vendors who meet your requirements and fit in your budget. If you’re still torn between two or three options, sign up for a free trial or a live demo to compare how the user interface looks and feels. Some vendors to consider include:
- Express VPN
- Tunnel Bear
Configure the VPN for your office
If you’re trying to create an office-level VPN that creates secure connections for all devices on the network, you’ll need to ensure your router is VPN-enabled. Some come with a VPN service pre-configured, and some VPN services offer special discounts on routers from their manufacturing partners. If you’d prefer to select your VPN software and router independently, you’ll need to double check that the router you choose supports VPN security.
In either case, setting up the VPN for your office(s) is usually as easy as opening the box, plugging in the router, and adding the router as a device on your account. You’ll need to configure a separate router for each office location. Once the VPN is up and running, any device that connects to the Wi-Fi will automatically connect to the VPN. This includes wireless printers, smart TVs, and virtual assistants like Amazon Echo devices.
Configure the VPN for working remotely
As a small business owner, you know that the work doesn’t stop when you leave the office. You and your employees need to be able to work from wherever you are when a crisis strikes, and a VPN ensures that you’ll be able to do so securely. All you need to do is configure the VPN for the device you want to use and you can connect instantly.
In most instances, you’ll need to download an app from the VPN provider and sign in. This is true for laptops, smartphones, and tablets alike. For mobile devices, you’ll likely be asked to download and install a VPN profile, which is as simple as tapping a few buttons to grant the VPN app access to your device settings. Then, you can control whether your VPN connection is on or off with a simple toggle in the VPN app.
You can also use the VPN app to control the location of your VPN server. As noted above, the server that’s closest in proximity will provide the fastest connection, but you can explore other server locations to access geo-restricted parts of the internet. It’s not necessarily something you’ll frequently encounter for business purposes, but it can come in handy when you want to stream content that’s only available in the United Kingdom, for example.
VPNs connect workers from anywhere
Regardless of where you and your team work, internet privacy is essential in today’s working world. A VPN is an easy way to create a secure connection for your online activity. It takes some effort to configure the VPN for your office location(s) and all the devices you want to connect, but doing so will give you peace of mind that your business data will remain private.
This article was originally published on March 22, 2012.